Sweeter Life

Publisher: Random House Canada
Tim Wynveen, winner of the Commonwealth Writers Best First Book prize, has outdone himself with his new novel, masterfully weaving themes of creativity, memory, time, loss and reconnection into the fragmented lives of the Owen family

Ten years after their parents die in a car accident, Cyrus, Isabel and Hank Owen are still trying to put their lives in order. Hank, the eldest, is in prison. The second-born, Isabel, is on the verge of divorce. Cyrus, the youngest in the family, is consumed by a crazy dream -- to one day become a rock star. Three siblings; three solitary figures looking for a way forward; three separate melodic lines that, when they meet, cause more dissonance than harmony.

As the story begins, Cyrus quits school and hits the road with the Jimmy Waters Revival, a curious entertainment that combines the southern fire of a Jimmy Swaggart with the oral narratives of a modern-day Homer. Even within his adopted musical family, Cyrus struggles to find his way, too caught up in his dream to see his life for what it really is, and after twelve years of wandering, he returns home a broken man.

Yet his time on the road has taught him how important it is to strike a balance between individual and group, soloist and ensemble -- lessons that will serve Cyrus well when he tries to make a new start with Hank and Isabel. As he pays more attention to the needs of his fractured family and old friends, he begins to create for the first time in his life the sweet and elusive music of human connection.


We talk because we are mortal. -- Octavio Paz

And because we aren’t gods,
or close to gods,
we sing.

-- Donald McKay, Another Gravity

Fling the emptiness out from
your arms
into the spaces we breathe: maybe the birds will
feel the thinner air with a...
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“Wynveen’s knowledge and love of music infuse his work, but … it is in crafting the story -- of having dreams come true, of failure, of knowing one’s true home -- that Wynveen shows his talent as a writer…. Wynveen has succeeded in writing a lyrical novel about families, dreams and the harsh realities of real life.” -- The Calgary Herald

“Tim Wynveen takes us on the road with a wannabe rock star who lives and finally loses his dream. Sweeter Life is tender and wise, a novel about the trials of creating and performing, but also about discovering the greater music of friendship and love." -- Cynthia Holz

“…a wholly satisfying novel…. Sweeter Life is a fine piece if storytelling, full of memorable characters and the kind of rewards promised by the title.” -- eye magazine

“Wynveen crafts the interactions among his characters as carefully as if he were creating a multi-layered chord…. Wynveen’s greatest accomplishment in this book is his power to make music manifest on the page…. [Wynveen] is unafraid to take narrative risks, to try his hand at increasingly complex structures. This third book should win him the wider readership he deserves.” -- The National Post

“A thoughtful novel about loss, creativity and survival…. A powerful meditation on what it costs to be an artist -- and to love one.” -- Marnie Woodrow, les Ailes

“Wynveen’s themes of overweening ambition and of emotional damage as the price exacted for failure, come together in a harmonious whole…. Sweeter Life marks a new and innovative chapter in Wynveen’s career.” -- The London Free Press

“[Wynveen] lays into his subject the way T-Bone Walker used to lay into a solo, and with the same invigorating results…. Sweeter Life is suffused with heartache, and yet, in the end, sends you out on a contented high, like a good encore. Sweet indeed.” -- The Georgia Straight

“Wynveen is a writer who is stunningly perceptive about life and people…. A major achievement -- a family fully realized, their several worlds created with loving attention to detail, the bittersweet nature of the human condition revealed in all its multifaceted turnings.” -- The Hamilton Spectator

“Think On the Road meets The Guess Who…. The real muscle of this novel lies in the author’s skill when it comes to charting character evolution. He’s equally adept at getting inside the heads and hearts of male and female characters, in spite of the fact that this is a chiefly masculine story of shattered dreams…. The literary equivalent of a slow song, but one worth tuning into, especially if you are (or have loved, or do now love) a musician.” -- The Globe and Mail

“In Sweeter Life, [Wynveen’s] third novel in four years, he turns his writer’s eye on a world he knows intimately, with the result that his obvious skill in shaping characters and events is heightened here by a very personal passion." -- Merilyn Symonds in The Kingston Whig-Standard

“Any one of a dozen characters in Tim Wynveen’s latest novel, The Sweeter Life, is intriguing enough to sustain a book of their own…. Wynveen wins our admiration.” -- Books In Canada

Praise for Tim Wynveen’s work:

“[Angel Falls] re-ignites our faith in love’s power and resilience . . . . [and] lingers with you, like the sour-sweet memory of someone you once loved.” -- The Edmonton Journal